Notes of a Native Son: Considerations when Discussing Race and Privilege in the Teacher's Lounge
Issues of race, literacy, and self-disclosure link to a long-running debate about the types of assignments and texts used to engage student thought. At the heart of this debate are teachers who view writing and teaching as a performance that is deeply personal and linked to social consequences resonating beyond the first-year writing experience (Bizzell, “Composition Studies Saves the World;” hooks, Teaching to Transgress; Prendergast, Literacy and Racial Justice), and those who see teaching and writing as the acquisition of discrete skills that prepare students to participate in academic discourse (Fish, Doing What Comes Naturally). Yet, most teaching often takes place somewhere in between these rationales. It is the teacher’s views about race, class, and gender informed by their experiences and shaped by their own educational background that continue to serve as a backdrop for their own resistance to antiracist teaching. For me, race represents an under examined, yet salient component of one’s teachings, the saturating force that influences the way one chooses to read and respond to particular educative moments. It is in those moments one should ask how does race shape, complicate or silence the interactions of others? This study uses autoethnography and critical analysis of recent research on race to propose a framework for thinking through attitudes toward student writing, toward the selection of texts, and toward teacher disclosures which are always already gendered, racialized, and classed.
In this article I examine my experiences as a writing program administrator at a historically Black University and moments of resistance from faculty members who wished to avoid particular conversations about assignments, texts, and student performance that acknowledged the role of race and privilege in those contexts. The purpose of this reflection is to connect it to recent work in educational research and critical race studies and begin to stitch a tighter rubric for reflexively analyzing one’s teaching decisions to ensure that they consider the complex way discussions of race marks one’s teaching identity, shape’s student interest, and enhances student literacies. As the work of Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (Racism Without Racists) and Imani Perry (More Beautiful and More Terrible) note, intention has become an obsolete mechanism for understanding and addressing racist assumptions and stereotypes that shape individual choices and reasoning processes. Given this understanding, it becomes imperative that teacher training and collegial conversations about teaching develop a sophisticated approach to interrogating the intersection of teacher ethos and race.
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